Ace Home Helpers purchased the mound of shells after a beach nourishment project conducted this spring in Panama City Beach.TYRA JACKSON @TyraJackPCNH
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Some people travel across the country to rub their hands and feet in the white sands of Panama City Beach. Others just travel for shellfish reasons.
Holly Ludwig and her husband, David, hopped into their car recently and drove from Kyle, Texas, to dive into a gigantic pile of sea shells sold at Ace Home Helpers. On their first visit to the store, the Ludwigs found their dream shell: the junonia.
“I carried my baby junonia around with me,” Holly said. “I think I slept with it that night.”
The store began selling the shells in May, and the shell business has been booming since then.
“They’re very popular,” said Ace store manager Freddie Eubanks. “People have been coming from all over Florida and Alabama. Two people flew in from Ohio.”
The shells come from a beach nourishment project conducted this spring. Thousand of shells and other materials were removed by a sorting machine to produce the “highest quality sand” to the beach, said Lisa Armbruster, beach management consultant. Any materials found throughout the separation process were to be disposed of by the nourishment contractor. Instead, Ace Home Helpers purchased the shells from the contractor, and the remaining shells were used in other projects.
The Ludwigs have visited the mountain of shells four times, and they plan to come back to do more hunting in February, the month of their anniversary.
“We shell all day until they kick us out,” Holly said. “Not only have we found our dream shells, but we’ve made friends. It’s the easiest shelling you’ll get. We don’t get shells like they have in Florida. You’re guaranteed good shells at Ace.”
Ace’s Facebook page is filled with pictures of shells and happy faces, as people from Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia and other areas have journeyed to dig up the shells. One post showed a group of people holding a birthday party at the shell pile.
Local residents participate too, of course. One of them, Shane New of Freeport, got more than he bargained for when he went through the mounds of shells.
“I also found a WWII anti tank round embedded in coral,” he said via Facebook.
He made seashell dream catchers out of his finds.
The heap of helmets, calico scallops, tulips, venus and other shell types also has made its way to Dothan, Ala., where Belinda Tew has created Christmas ornaments, shadowboxes and more out of the shells. She visited the pile, located next to the store, in June.
Tew has been collecting shells for decades and purchased about five gallons from the store.
“I’ve taken my family down there,” she said. “I’ve given a bunch away to friends who can’t get to the beach. I’ve mailed them to Ohio and the West Coast.”
When Tew first got word of the sale, she posted the information to the “Shellinators” Facebook page, a group of avid shell collectors.
Tew said she is happy Ace rescued the shells from destruction, and the possibility of them being used as building material for parking lots, their original purpose. She recommended people stop by the store to find their own buried treasure.
“I guess you have to have a passion and love for them,” Tew said.
Shells can be purchased at Ace Home Helpers, 17760 Panama City Beach Parkway, for $5 a gallon.
Source : http://www.newsherald.com/news/20171207/treasure-hunters-find-prizes-in-ace-shell-heap631